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'Move to curtail democratic rights': Farmer's death in Chandigarh, attack on protesters

Counterview Desk

The civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), even as “strongly condemning” the alleged murder of farmer Pritam Singh and “repression” against Kisan Union by police, has said that the incident took place as a result of chaos following a police lathi charge against protesting farmers who were marching to Chandigarh to raise their demands against Punjab and Hayana governments.
In a statement, it said, “More than 25 districts of Punjab and Haryana were severely affected from the heavy rains and floods this season which has caused a huge crop loss to farmers dependent on agriculture but the administration has not announced any compensation for them as of now.” 
This led farmers of both the states to protest.


On August 21, 2023, elderly farmer Pritam Singh died amid a police lathi charge against protesting farmers who were marching to Chandigarh to raise their demands against Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann. Pritam Singh was run over by a tractor in the chaos that ensued when the police decided to stop the farmers from exercising their democratic rights and attacked them with lathis.
The protests stem from the on-going crisis with Punjab. More than 25 districts of Punjab and Haryana were severely affected from the heavy rains and floods this season which has caused a huge crop loss to farmers dependent on agriculture but the administration has not announced any compensation for them as of now.
The kisan leaders have been demanding compensation not just for Punjab but for the entire north India region affected by these floods, urging the government to set up a package of Rs 50,000 crore for relief and compensation. In terms of compensation, they are demanding Rs 50,000 per acre for crop loss, Rs. 5 lakh for housing damages and repair work as well as relief of Rs 10 lakh to the families of those who lost their lives in the floods.
After negotiations with the administration failed and memorandums were submitted to the authorities, 16 Kisan Unions collectively gave a joint call on 22nd July to march towards Chandigarh a month later on 22nd August, if they saw no change of positions from the government. 
Both the Punjab and Haryana governments began a pre-emptive strike against this call and arrested more than 20 kisan leaders and hundreds of active farmers from their homes in a bid to eliminate the leadership of this protest and curtail the backlash from it.
Even so, the farmers began the march to Chandigarh to surround the Chief Minister’s offices and make their demands heard. In an attempt to stop them from reaching their destination, the administration lathicharged the farmers heading towards Chandigarh on 21st August and 22nd August which took the life of Pritam Singh and amputated the leg of another one. Even after all these incidents, the arrests have only intensified, with youth kisan leader Baldeep Singh being arrested on 22nd August even after strong demonstrations from farmers after the repression in Longowal.
The state’s attempt at curtailing the democratic rights of these farmers intensified in other ways too, with several social media accounts of both the leading farmers and the grassroot journalists being blocked, a direct attack against the democratic rights to organise and protest, along with curtailment of media professional’s ability to report the truth to the larger people of the country.
Particularly, the Facebook page of Gaon Savera, which covers rural Haryana and Punjab and run by journalist Mandeep Punia and his team, was blocked. This is the third such local and grassroot platform, after Lokvani and National Savera which has been curtailed in such an undemocratic manner.
In other places, the Haryana government deployed police vans which would try to overtake buses and tractors carrying protesting farmers and obstruct their paths on highways by placing police vehicles in front of them. Police have continued their attempts to block protests by increasing personnel in key areas of Mohali, the entry point to Chandigarh in the last 24 hours.
We strongly condemn these actions of the administration and demand the Punjab Government, Haryana Government and Chandigarh administration to stop these repressive measures with immediate effect.
*Organising team: AIRSO,AISA, AISF, APCR,BASF, BSM, Bhim Army, Bigul Mazdoor Dasta, bsCEM, CEM, CRPP, CTF, Disha, DISSC, DSU, DTF, Fraternity ,IAPL, Karnataka Janashakti, LAA, Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan, Mazdoor Patrika, , Morcha Patrika, NAPM, NBS, Nowruz, NTUI, People’s Watch, Rihai Manch, Samajwadi Janparishad, Smajwadi Lok Manch, Bahujan Samajvadi Manch, SFI, United Against Hate, WSS, Y4S



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